If you or your children suffer from allergies, asthma or any respiratory condition aggravated by particle allergens, the type of vacuum cleaner you own can make a vast difference in your quality of life. Increasingly, studies show that traditional vacuum cleaners can actually aggravate symptoms by redistributing massive amounts of allergens that have settled on the floors back into the air you breath. A quality HEPA vacuum cleaner can help solve this problem by controlling dust mites, pet dander, pollen and other irritants in your home. The right vacuum can not only remove allergens and dirt from the physical surfaces in your home but can actually improve your indoor air quality and make it more breathable.
However, all vacuums are not created equally. Some may be great at removing dirt and pet hair from carpet while spewing the most dangerous particles, fine particles, back into the air you breathe. This type of vacuum "cleans for appearances," but at Achoo, we want you to have a vacuum that not only keeps your home looking nice, but one that actually allows you to "clean for your health" by removing allergens and not simply redistributing them back into the air. And, when it comes to HEPA vacuum cleaners, there are a lot of choices on the market, so how do you know which is the right fit for you? Here are some important factors to consider when shopping for a vacuum cleaner:
Standard Filtration vs. S-Class / HEPA Filtration
Since filtration is such a large part of what makes a healthier type of vacuum, actually... healthy, which should you choose? Vacuum cleaners with a standard filter, often foam or polypropylene, or no filter at all (which was the norm for decades) simply spread allergens around in the air you breathe by actually picking up particles that have settled in the carpet or on the smooth flooring then making them airborne again. They cannot effectively filter and trap fine particles like pollen or pet dander, as these particles will simply pass straight through the machine.
If you have allergies, you need a tightly sealed vacuum cleaner with an S-Class or HEPA filter that meets the rigorous U.S. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) standards of removing 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns or larger. S-Class and HEPA filters are nearly identical in filtration standards, so for allergies and asthma, either will work well. Several brands we carry, including, Miele, SEBO, Dyson, Soniclean (canisters), and some Electrolux models, offer a sealed systems with HEPA filtration.
What's the Difference Between S-Class and HEPA? Does It Matter?
As mentioned above, the HEPA standard is the filtration of 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns and larger. This is an American standard that was developed by the U.S. military. In Europe there are similar standards but a few different classes. You may sometimes see H11, H12 or H13 HEPA. These designations refer to slightly different filtration standards that are commonly used in Europe. And in recent years, these standards have changed some, and while the HEPA standard defines the "Most Penetrating Particle Size" to be 0.3 microns, the new EU standards redefine that as just under 0.2 microns. For the HEPA designation in Europe, filters must now remove 99.95% of particles this size and larger. S-Class filtration, exclusive to SEBO, filters 99.9% of particles 0.3 microns or larger, again, very similar to HEPA (American or EU standards).
For the vast majority of people, the difference between 99.97% @ 0.3 microns and 99.95% @ 0.1-0.2 microns and 99.5% @0.3 microns is going to minimal at worst. For most of us, the key lies in a filter at least puts in you that range of microfiltration, and does not leak or better yet, has been independently tested.
In addition to the filters, some vacuums are beginning to offer "filterbags". Miele was the first of our offering to push past the traditional paper bag and onto multilayer bags that offer multiple stages of filtration. The AirClean filterbags are the latest version of this and offer feature 9-ply construction. With each ply, or layer, designed differently, this bag does the bulk of filtration, even capturing particles you cannot see. More recently, Soniclean took this a bit further. With their upright vacuum cleaners, there is no HEPA filter. Instead, each features a HEPA bag. In terms of convenience, this is a step in the right direction. Note though, the uprights lacked a sealed system, and though the canisters have that feature, they use a more more traditional-style dust bag/HEPA filter combo. With HEPA or S-Class filtration, filterbags or filters themselves, you can rest assured that your vacuum cleaner will effectively trap almost all of the household allergens.
Sealed Systems - The Second Key to Proper Vacuum Cleaner Filtration
A HEPA filter can do a great deal to improve the air quality that is coming from your vacuum, but a HEPA filter is only as good as the system around it. If air is leaking around the body, the dust bag or the filters of a vacuum cleaner, then your HEPA filter really isn't insuring that the air exiting your machine is actually free of allergens. Leaky systems can also mean reduced suction, as air is not flowing properly through the machine. Think of it like trying to suck through a straw with a hole in it - more work and effort for less results. Look for rubber seals or gaskets around your vacuum cleaner, around the lid and filter are the two key areas. Each of the vacuum cleaners we offer come standard with a sealed system with the exception of a few small handheld models, Miele S2 canisters and the Soniclean uprights.
Upright Vacuum Cleaners vs. Canister Vacuum Cleaners
Upright vacuum cleaners are best suited for cleaning carpet, but this type has traditionally been heavier and more difficult to maneuver than canister vacuum cleaners. Cleaning in tight spaces and under furniture was difficult with older upright vacuum cleaners, but slimmer uprights, like the Miele S7 uprights or SEBO uprights are designed to specifically address these concerns. When lying flat on the floor, a vacuum like the Miele Swing has a slim 6" profile, while several of the SEBO vacuums will actually be even slimmer! The Soniclean uprights can also lie flat and have a slim profile, though it, like the SEBO uprights, feature a more traditional steering and maneuvering system. Dyson vacuums are designed to address maneuverability with their patented Ball feature, but nearly all are thicker uprights, more akin to traditional uprights than the slim, lay-flat profile you see with Miele or SEBO uprights.
Canisters tend to roll more freely, be lighter in weight, and are often best geared towards smooth flooring like tile, hardwood, linoleum or laminate. More compact, canister vacuum cleaners can often be used with a variety of attachments and because of their compact nature, are often better for steps and other hard to reach places. Brands like Miele have blurred the lines between the traditional used of a canister and upright vacuum. Making each more versatile, and building innovative features has made the difference in choosing a canister versus an upright largely a question of simple preference. In terms of canister vacuums, the versatile Miele Marin is our most popular product.
Beyond the traditional upright vs. canister dichotomy, there are stick and handheld vacuum cleaners. Often the most lightweight and compact of all, these models are generally additional cleaning tools for quick spills or used in larger homes, as an additional vac. The most versatile of these models is the Miele Swing.
Bagged vs. Bagless Vacuum Cleaners
When it is time for dust disposal after vacuuming, bagged vacuum cleaners are generally a better choice for those dealing with allergy or asthma, because the dust is collected in a sealable bag. However, bagged vacuum cleaners can lose suction power as the bag fills up, so with a bagged vacuum cleaner, it's important to keep an eye on the dust bag change indicator. Miele vacuum cleaners have special, high-quality filterbags (as mentioned above) that feature a spring loaded mechanism to automatically seal themselves upon removal. Though not spring load, the S-Bag by Electrolux (the standard dust bag for this brand of vacuum cleaner) will seal itself as you remove it. SEBO dust bags have a small plastic cap attached to the bag so that before removing it, you can seal in allergens, dirt and dander. Soniclean has a similar device, not not quite as effective, for some of their dustbags.
Bagless vacuum cleaners, like Dyson vacuums, have no bags to get clogged, so you do not have to worry about the expense of buying new bags. Bagless vacuum cleaners collect dust in a plastic bin for disposal. Some Electrolux models are designed similar to the Dyson uprights and have a dust bin instead of traditional vacuum bags. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, we recommend getting someone else to empty the dust bin for you whenever possible. And, it is best to go outdoors to empty the dust bin into the trash.
Other Factors to Consider
Easy to Use
Ask yourself: "Are all the buttons and tools on this vacuum intuitive and easy to reach? How easy is it to change the bag or empty the dust bin? How easy is it to maneuver the vacuum cleaner in tight spaces? Does your hand feel right on the handle?" Miele canisters are generally lightweight, particularly the Compact C2 models, and much easier to maneuver than upright vacuum cleaners. Our SEBO vacuum cleaners are close, but the new Soniclean uprights are our lightest upright vacuum cleaners. Some models have controls placed right at your fingers, while others will require you to bend over or are not as easy to use while cleaning.
The best way to test ergonomics and performance is to get your hands on the vacuum cleaner and see it for yourself. If you are in the Atlanta area, you can stop by our Atlanta show room to "test-drive" our vacuum cleaners. For all of our models, we test their ability to clean dirt and pet hair as well as remove odor and fine dust on both smooth and carpeted surfaces. In general, all of our vacuums offer powerful suction, and while some are better suited for different types of flooring, when you match the vacuum with what it is designed to clean, all are highly efficient cleaning machines.
Power measured in amps or watts tells us how much energy the vacuum cleaner uses. When choosing a vacuum cleaner, do not rely on the amount of amperage used as a deciding factor. Amperage is the amount of electricity the motor uses and has nothing do the suction power of the vacuum. The suction power is determined by the air flow and is rated as CFM, or, as in the case of Dyson, is rated by airwatts. Additionally, some vacuums have very powerful brushrolls. Of all the uprights we offer, Miele S7's and the Soniclean upright are so strong that on carpet, with the brushroll engaged, they almost feel self-propelled!
Usually measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute), air flow is the force exerted by the moving air which picks up the dirt and moves it into the bag or dust container. Better vacuum cleaners have higher CFM ratings and are generally more expensive. Airwatts is also a measure of flow, but this measurement is used most often by Dyson. Since it is not a universal measurement, airwatts are most useful when for comparing Dyson models against each other.
Powerhead vs. Turbohead
Turboheads are purely air-driven and work well in homes with some carpet, but more specifically, low pile or thinner carpet. Powerheads have an additional electric motor that gives the brush roll more power to suck up dirt deep in thick or high pile carpet, and many vacuums give you the ability to turn off the brush roll on the powerhead and use straight suction over smooth flooring. Electrically powered heads, especially those with height adjustment, can be more expensive but are the most versatile in terms of cleaning all types of carpet.
Be sure to check the cord length and make sure that it is long enough for your home or office. Also, think about all the hard-to-reach spots in your home and make sure you find a vacuum cleaner with the ability to reach them. With upright vacuums it is important to take into account the hose. The hose of a Miele S7 upright can stretch to well over 10 feet. This, combined with the crevice tool, makes these vacuums ideal for removing cobwebs from the corners of rooms or sucking up dirt and debris behind a dresser. These uprights provide over 50' of actual cleaning reach, and the Miele S8 canisters give you 36' of cleaning range. This can be the difference between plugging and unplugging a vacuum for every room or just once for several rooms.
Attachments & Options
Do you need a headlight on your vacuum cleaner? Do you need an adjustable, electrified wand so that you can use accessories like upholstery tools and ceiling fan tools? Do you want automatic height adjustment to effortlessly switch from carpet to hardwood? If you decide to get a bagged vacuum cleaner, we recommend that you get one with a bag change indicator light since the vacuum cleaner will not work properly if the bag is too full. Are you looking for a model that provides the accessories for above-the-floor cleaning? Miele vacuum cleaners are regarded as one of the industry leaders when it comes to convenient, state-of-the-art tools and accessories.
A manufacturer's reputation and the experiences of past customers deserve consideration in your decision making process. Certain manufacturers and products are highly respected in the industry for a reason and the same goes for products which have garnered less respect. To do more research on your vacuum, check out our customer reviews and our AchooAllergy.com product reviews located on each product page.
Durability & Warranty
Miele vacuum cleaners offer a seven-year warranty for the motor and a one-year warranty for parts and labor, except the UniQ which is covered for 10 full years on the motor & housing and 5 years on parts and labor. SEBO vacuums have a five-year warranty on the motor, three-year warranty on parts, and one-year warranty for labor. Dyson vacuums come with a five-year warranty. Electrolux vacuum cleaners have a two-year warranty, and lastly, Soniclean vacuums are covered from 1-5 years, depending on the model.
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